For thousands of years South Americans have farmed guinea pigs — but this has not taken root in most other parts of the world, including Africa. We spoke to Brigitte Maass about the opportunities they offer as livestock and what challenges there are in producing them

Guinea pigs are native to South America. In Peru they call them “cuyes”, but the animal has many different names all over the world. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), farmers call them “dende”, and we think this comes from the French name “Cochon d’Inde”, meaning “pig from India”. But they are not pigs, or from India or Guinea. We therefore prefer to call them “domestic cavies”. Cavies have many uses. They were domesticated thousands of years ago as a small livestock species and continue to be farmed. They have also been used by medical researchers to investigate diseases and, mostly in western society — like Europe or northern America — they’re kept as pets. But traditionally they were used for meat. And they still are today, all around the world, with demand peaking in South American countries like Peru and Ecuador. Cavy farming can be a lucrative business. Some farmers even give up dairy farming because raising cavies is more economical. In Peru, for instance, the av...

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